Ib developer interview: Why a remake after 10 years?

Publication date of the original Japanese article: 2022-04-12 17:00 (JST)
Translated by. Nick Mosier

Indie game publisher PLAYISM has released a remake of Ib on Steam. The game currently only supports Japanese, but English, Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese support are planned to be added at a later date.

* Disclosure: The publisher PLAYISM is part of Active Gaming Media, which is also the owner of this website.

The original Ib came out in 2012 as a free horror game in Japan. The game takes place in the unlikely setting of an art gallery adorned with mysterious and fascinating artwork, but with no one in the gallery to view it. The game is full of unique puzzles and its characters captured the hearts of many players, spreading through sites like pixiv and Twitter, as well as through Let’s Plays.

On social media, content seems to go viral in an instant almost every day. But much of it is forgotten almost as quickly as it rises. On the other hand, Ib is still loved by players around the world even after 10 years. The proof can be seen in kouri’s tweet from October of last year announcing the remake of the title, which as of April 7 had gathered 190,000 likes.

In honor of the remake of Ib being released, we have conducted an interview with the game’s developer kouri. The questions were provided by Shunji Mizutani, the Executive Producer at PLAYISM.

– After 10 years, what made you decide to remake Ib?

The biggest reason is a few years ago people started contacting me saying they couldn’t play the game. The original free version of Ib was made in RPG Maker 2000, a tool that’s over 20 years old now, so there are cases of it not working on modern hardware. It was sad that people who wanted to play the game weren’t able to. There was also a considerable amount of demand for a remake, so I thought if I’m going to do it, I want to do it right.

Requests were coming by email, particularly from overseas. After seeing so many emails of people saying they wanted the game on Steam, I started to think that might be the way to go. But at this point, it’s hard to tell if it will actually sell or not…

– The original was a free game. Why did you decide to charge for it this time around?

If it was free, I might have lost motivation and given up halfway through it. I’m also an adult now (laughs), so I think it’s better that I receive fair compensation in exchange for what I made.

– Can you tell us why the price is set at $12.99?

To not make it too high or too low, I referenced the development cost, as well as the prices of comparable games when making the decision.

– Regarding the price, you had the idea of it being like the entry fee to the Guertena exhibit (the name of the exhibition being held in-game) and we (PLAYISM) were on board with that. I think we were able to find the right price point while also considering the price of similarly scaled titles. Let’s get back to the game. What were some things you definitely wanted to include when making the remake?

I wanted to fix the parts that weren’t quite right about the free game. For example, there were gimmicks that didn’t really tie into the art, and I thought, “does this really have a place in Ib?” and tried to fix them as best as I could. I also wanted to make difficult to understand parts easier. The game is billed as “a game that even non-gamers can enjoy” so it would be no good if I didn’t take that into consideration.

In addition, I definitely wanted to have an official localization, and had to make something that’s easier to localize. For that reason, I’m extremely happy about the decision to localize the game.

Can you give us an example of a “difficult to understand part?” How did you make it easier to understand?

The original version had no sort of guidance about the controls whatsoever, so that now appears in the remake. Like when you’re wondering which button even opens the menu. People familiar with RPG Maker games knew, but if you didn’t play them, you were kind of left in the dark. The remake also has two new systems called “Zoom” and “Conversation.” For that reason, having no control instructions would just be mean, so I added them.

The game also has 3 types of doors: those that require keys, those that require something besides keys, and those that are already open. Additions include making things like this visually distinct. For puzzles, there were times when an event would happen with a message like “something occurred outside the room” which have been made more intuitive or remade as a new puzzle. Most of the changes are small and subtle, but I think they make a big difference to the overall experience.

– On the opposite end, what’s something you didn’t want to do in the remake?

Making big changes to the story or  needlessly adding more endings. It’s a remake, so I know players are hoping for new elements to be added. However, I thought the overall story was fine as it was. I considered adding new endings, but I think they would have just been superfluous. For me, it’s ideal for a story to not completely wrap up everything.

-Is there something you did want to tinker with but held off on?

To be honest, I’m still not sure if the conditions for the branching endings is all that great. But changing it would require fundamental changes to the story, so I held off on going that far. It is an improvement over the free game, though. Probably.

– Around how long did it take to develop the remake? Was there anything that took an especially long time to do?

The project outline was made in November of 2019, so around 2 years and 4 months. That wasn’t all development time, though. I feel like thinking of ways to refresh mechanics took up a decent amount of time. But overall, around half of the production time was spent making the graphics.

– Did you make the game entirely by yourself? Did you consult any friends?

Aside from a bit involving sound, I made the game by myself. PLAYISM, the game’s publisher, helped with debugging and having multiple people working on that was a huge help. I don’t have any friends that were aware I was working on the remake. Ah, but my little brother did test some puzzles for me.

– What did you do at times when development wasn’t going smoothly?

I played or watched other people’s works and often separated myself from the work to go outside. I also raised chili peppers and basil.

– What are your personal thoughts on what the appeal of Ib is?

An art gallery is an interesting setting, right? Not a lot of games use an art gallery as a setting which may have been a novel idea. While there were few characters, I think their personalities were able to shine through. Especially Garry, who became way more popular than I could have ever imagined.

– Do you like art galleries? Is there one in particular that you enjoy?

I don’t dislike them, but I don’t have a particular favorite. I don’t go to them often but might like to visit the Louvre someday.

– The response on social media has been big. How did you feel about that?

The only word I have is thankful. I’m happy so many people remember the game, but some who now look like they’re adults working jobs have commented, “oh! I played this in elementary school!” which really made me feel how much time has passed.

– Have you looked at any Ib fanart or watched any Let’s Plays?

I watch a decent amount of Let’s Play videos. Seeing how players are playing the game and what thoughts they have is extremely valuable information. I also smile when I’m sent fanart around anniversaries of the game or see it posted online. But I think all creators can’t help but smile when they see fanart.

– As shown by all the fanart, Ib is a game that already has a number of passionate fans. However, there are likely others just learning about the game for the first time. How do you want them to enjoy Ib?

If possible, go into it without looking at any information and play it as you see fit.

-With development on the remake winding down, what are your plans for the future?

I think various kinds of merchandise will release this year. In addition to that, an on-site event is also being planned.

– Do you have plans to continue being an active game creator going forward?

It would be great if that’s possible. Even if it’s not games, I think I’ll be creating something.

– Do you have a message for all of the Ib fans from over the years?

I’m thankful for everyone that has enjoyed Ib. Thank you all so much!

– Thank you for your time.

Ib remake can be found here on Steam. The game currently only supports Japanese, but English, Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese support are planned to be added at a later date.